As noted earlier today, generalized out of necessity…
1) Sour beer and barrel-aged beer, or beers that are a combination of the two, are undeniable attention-getters and certainly a trend, with the seven sour and barrel categories accounting for 307 of the total 3362 beers entered in the judging. That’s over 9% of the total entries coming from a realm of brewing most people would classify as well out on the fringe.
2) And on that topic, remember the name Cascade Brewing the next time you find yourself in Oregon. Even with my mollusc-tainted palate, all five of the barrel-aged beers they poured at the fest were highly impressive.
3) And while we’re on the subject of names to remember – the Chuckanut Brewery of Bellingham, Washington. It won the Small Brewpub of the Year honour for brewing a stellar range of Germanic lagers. And in the don’t-even-come-to-my-party-if-you-don’t-brew-an-IPA Pacific Northwest, no less!
4) Before my palate went on me, I also enjoyed very much the wares of Austin’s North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery, in particular their Berliner Weisse.
5) This was the first year for the new “Session Beer” category, about which I have ranted before, as readers of The Celebrator will recall. Testament to its absurdity was provided by the medal winners, all of which are very good beers, but which constitute three very distinct styles. (So I don’t get into listing winning names over and over, check out the whole 78 categories’ worth over here.)
6) It was great to see so many new breweries not only on the floor, but also in the medals. In fact, the above-mentioned Chuckanut is itself only a little over a year old.
7) Cheers to Devil’s Backbone Brewing of Roseland, Virginia, for one of the fest’s great, if somewhat dated, beer names: Natural Born Keller.
8) The Lost Abbey won gold in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale category for its Duck Duck Gooze, a deserved accolade that is lamentable only because it will likely expand the misconception that gueuze is pronounced “gooze.” (It’s “geh-ze.”)
9) Aside from the sour and barrel movement noted above, the most remarkable trend in American craft brewing these days would seem to be the lack of any trends. The Festival floor was populated with a wider and more diverse range of beer styles and types than I have ever before seen, and that is something that bodes very, very well for the industry’s future.